Backdropped by guard towers and 17-foot-tall sandstone walls, the Idaho Botanical Garden is located just outside the former Idaho State Penitentiary, which operated here in Boise from 1872 to 1973. On a 33-acre site, where prisoners once farmed vegetables, visitors now can take a leisurely stroll through 13 theme gardens.
The Heirloom Rose Garden displays nearly 100 varieties in traditional borders. A sandstone gazebo echoing the style of the prison walls is the centerpiece of the informal English Garden, which is full of perennial flowers. The Meditation Garden (shown) offers shady refuge.
The garden hosts various events, including the Lewis & Clark lecture series (free with $4 garden admission; Jul 20, Aug 17, Sep 21, 2004), featuring presentations about the expedition. Local musicians perform Thursday evenings in the Great Garden Escapes concert series ($7, including garden admission; Jul 1-Sep 2). The Idaho Botanical Garden (9-5 Mon-Thu, 9-8 Fri, 10-6 Sat-Sun; $4; 2355 N. Penitentiary Rd.; or 208/343-8649) is open year-round.